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Thu, Oct. 17

Special interest grades can mislead us easily

One of the worst varieties of chewing gum for the mind is ratings from special interest groups.

They say far more about the group's narrow agenda than they do about the state of the public good.

The latest case in point is what Handgun Control Inc. calls its fourth annual report card on states' efforts to control private firearms use and ownership.

Its criteria include whether states allow responsible citizens to carry concealed weapons, prohibit juvenile gun ownership, prevent child access to guns and punish adults whose children get to their guns, prevent counties or cities from enacting stricter gun laws than the state's, and whether states require background checks on private-party gun sales.

The underlying implication is that the more states restrict private gun ownership, the safer society is.

Handgun Control Inc. gave Arizona a "D" grade. However, the Almanac of the 50 States ranks Arizona 14th in the rate of violent crimes per 100,000 population.

It gave 19 other states "D"grades. The rankings of those states in violent crimes per 100,000 were Nevada, eighth; New Mexico, 10th; Tennessee, 11th; Alaska, 12th ; Oklahoma, 17th; Texas, 18th; Georgia, 20th; Arkansas, 24th; Indiana, 25th; Oregon, 26th; Mississippi, 27th; Washington, 28th; Colorado, 30th; Pennsylvania, 31st; Utah, 40th; West Virginia, 45th; South Dakota, 46th; Vermont, 50th, and North Dakota, 51st. (Rankings include the District of Columbia.) The average of the rankings: 26.55.

It gave seven states "F" grades. Their violent crime rankings, were Louisiana, third; Alabama 27th; Kentucky, 30th; Idaho, 41st; Wyoming, 44th; Montana, 47th, and Maine, 48th. The average ranking: 34.

It gave six states "B" grades. The violent crime rankings of those states are Illinois, fourth; California, seventh; New York, ninth; New Jersey, 23rd; Nebraska, 34th, and Rhode Island, 35th. Average ranking: 18.6.

Four states got "A's." The states, and their violent crime rankings are Maryland, fifth; Massachusetts, 16th; Connecticut, 33rd, and Hawaii, 42nd. The report card didn't grade the District of Columbia, which has the most restrictive gun laws in the country, but it ranks first in violent crime. Average ranking of those four states and the district: 19.4.

If the figures show anything, they show that a "D" or "F" rating is no assurance you'll be in danger, and an "A" or "B" rating is certainly no assurance you'll be safe.

Perhaps restrictive gun laws have less to do with public safety than strict law enforcement, demographics, geography and other factors.

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